It is the most popular sport in America and the most popular sport in which to wager. It’s as if the NFL was made for sports bettors, with its full slate of games mostly focused on a single day each week, highlighted national games at night and the easiest point spreads of any sport to understand and navigate successfully.
But for the novice bettor, it can be a bit intimidating when there is a tripleheader of 14 games everyone seemingly has an opinion on. Everyone is betting, the point spreads, odds and injury reports are constantly changing and the talking heads never actually stop talking.
However, for all the confusion and complexity that may exist on the surface, there is order and excitement underneath. On the following page, we aim to make sense of it all and help put you in the best position to bet on the NFL with comfort and success.
The Best NFL Betting Sites
Coloradans are expected to eventually wager as much as $6 billion annually, which is why so many of the biggest names in the sports betting industry are coming to the state. There is no shortage of reliable and established sportsbooks in which you can bet on the NFL.
|CO Sportsbook||Launch Date|
|William Hill||May 1st, 2020|
|Circa||May 1st, 2020|
|Draft Kings||May 1st, 2020|
|Wynn Resorts||May 1st, 2020|
|PointsBet||May 1st, 2020|
The Legality of NFL Betting in CO
It is estimated that in 2019 there were 38 million Americans who placed bets on NFL games. If you add in fantasy football and social betting between acquaintances, that number is much larger. So betting on the NFL is big business, and thanks to the US Supreme Court’s ruling in 2018, it is increasingly becoming a legal business.
Following the ruling that overturned the ban on individual states setting their own sports gaming laws, Colorado began writing new laws to govern its own legal sports betting. That law was approved by voters in November 2019, and it legalized all professional and college sports betting in the state, including the NFL.
Colorado now has retail sportsbooks located in a number of the pre-existing casinos in the mountain towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, as well as online and mobile sportsbooks that are accessible everywhere in the state. All of Colorado’s sportsbooks offer legal betting on the NFL.
Legal Betting Sites vs. Offshore
The reality is you aren’t likely to get in legal trouble for betting at an offshore bookmaker. But those sites are operating illegally, despite what they claim, and there are now so many safe and legal options there’s no reason to bet at an offshore site.
Your money is more secure, your transactions will be faster, your deposit and withdrawal options will be greater, and the revenue generated by the legal sportsbooks is funding water projects in Colorado. When there is a regulated sportsbook that’s an option to place your NFL bets, it’s always the best way to go.
Understanding NFL Points Spreads and Odds
If you’re going to place NFL bets, the first and most important thing you need to know is how to read the odds. Every NFL game comes with a basic set of odds for the three main types of bets: point spread, moneyline and totals.
When you look at the odds on the board at a sportsbook, they will look somewhat like this:
RAMS +8 +320
49ERS 42.5 -400
EAGLES 49.5 +185
FALCONS -3.5 -165
RAVENS -10 -580
BENGALS 53.5 +480
In each one of these matchups you can see the point spread (the 49ers are favored by eight points against the Rams), you can see the totals line (the Eagles–Falcons over/under is 49.5) and the moneyline (the Ravens are huge favorites at the Bengals and only pay -580 on a moneyline bet).
Let’s look at each of these three different types of odds in more detail:
The most basic of sports wagers, the point spread designates exactly how many points a favorite must win by for the bet to be a winner. The underdog can lose the game but still win the bet, as long as they cover the point spread. So if the Rams only lose by seven, a bet on the Rams wins.
Also known as an over/under bet, when betting on a totals line, you are betting on the combined total points scored by both teams. You don’t care who wins; you only care how many points are scored. If you took the over on the Eagles-Falcons and the final score is 27-24, you win. If, however, it’s 24-21, that is under 49.5 total points, so you would lose.
If you’re just betting the winner and loser of the game straight up and without any concern for a point spread, then you’re betting on the moneyline. It’s a set of odds that levels the playing field between a great team like the Ravens and a not-so-great team like the Bengals.
If you were to put $100 on the Bengals to win and all it paid was $100, no one would make that bet. But in this case, it wins $480 on a $100 bet, so it becomes more desirable.
Moneylines are easiest understood with a $100 base bet. Putting $100 on Cincinnati results in a $580 payout comprised of $100 of the bet and $480 in winnings. For the Ravens at -580, to win $100, the wager would have to be $580. If you put $20 on the Ravens, you would win $3.44, but if you put $20 on the Bengals, you would win $96.
When placing an NFL bet, the odds you play during the game are what the odds were at the time you placed the bet. The odds may move (more on that in a moment), but once you place your bet, your odds or point spread are locked in.
Shopping for Odds and Spreads
Because of the computerization of the system and the speed in which information is transferred now, most point spreads and odds are consistent. The main bookmaker working in Las Vegas will update the odds or spread, and within just a few minutes, any sportsbook affiliated with that Vegas property will have the updated odds.
From book to book you can still find discrepancies, which is why before placing any bet online or over your mobile phone, look around. You may really like the 49ers -8, but you find another sportsbook that has them at -7. One point may not seem like a lot until you lose a bet by one point, and then you realize it can make all the difference.
To be a successful sports bettor, all you need is to find small advantages, and finding an extra point on a line is exactly the kind of advantage smart bettors are looking for.
Why Do Odds and Spreads Move?
Bookmakers will post the odds for Sunday’s NFL matchups at the beginning of the previous week. Then, over the next several days, you may see the spread and moneyline move one way or another, and maybe even back on itself. Why does this happen?
In football, unlike other sports, there is more time between games, so there’s more time for news to change from game to game.
A player may get hurt in Wednesday’s practice, changing the odds against his team. Or maybe news crosses that a player who was previously hurt is now going to play. All of that will change the odds over the week.
Where the betting is being placed will also change the odds. A sportsbook has no vested interest in which team wins the game. The odds they post are not a prediction of an outcome, nor does it reflect a rooting interest.
The odds posted by a sportsbook serve one goal: to split the betting evenly on both sides. If one team gets the majority of the bets, the sportsbook is at risk of losing money.
To mitigate this risk and influence how the public bets, they will shift the line in the hopes of moving the betting trends. So if a line moves one way, it’s a good indication that betting has been trending in the other direction.
Other NFL Bets
One of the great things about NFL bets is that along with three traditional ways to place a wager on a single game, there is a myriad of other ways to bet on the NFL.
As soon as the Super Bowl is over — often in less than 24 hours — you will be able to bet on the winner of the following Super Bowl, a game still 52 weeks away. This is what is meant by a futures bet. It’s a bet on an event that has yet to take place, and possibly won’t take place for many months.
You can also bet on team win totals, division champions and the eventual conference champions all before the season begins. Or if you want to wager on individual future achievements, you can do that too.
Futures bets include the eventual MVP, Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year and many other awards the sportsbook might list. You can also bet on the rushing leader, sack leader and which QB will finish the season with the most yards.
Those last few types of futures bets are also the basis for many proposition bets, which are individual or team wagers that take place inside a certain game. The Super Bowl is the most popular game in which prop bets can be found, but they are offered for every NFL game.
These include the first team and player to score, total passing yards, total touchdowns, the coin toss and even the color of the Gatorade that will be dumped on the winning coach.
It used to be once you submitted your bets before the game kicked off, that was it. From that point on, you were nothing but a spectator. But thanks to live betting, that’s no longer the case, as bettors can now wager on constantly changing spreads and odds throughout the game.
There are quarter lines, halftime bets, buyout options, and even bets dialed down to specific plays and drives. From kickoff to the final whistle, there are new bets that can be placed.
Betting the Preseason, Regular Season and Playoffs
All NFL games, no matter if it’s a preseason, regular-season or playoff game, are played by the same rules (with the exception of overtime since in the playoffs there can’t be any ties). This doesn’t mean, however, that betting in August, October or January is the same. It’s similar, but there are significant differences you should know about before placing any bets.
Long a controversy among players and season-ticket holders, most people think the NFL preseason is outdated and too long. Back when the players were part-timers, they needed a preseason to get back into football shape, but that hasn’t been the case for decades. So what happens is most of your starters will play very little in those contests.
You might want to bet on the Chiefs in the first week of the preseason because of Patrick Mahomes but there’s a good chance he won’t play beyond a single series, and then your bet is completely thrown off.
This isn’t to say you can’t bet in the preseason. There are spreads, moneylines and all the usual bets, but preseason games are anything but predictable, so bet with caution.
One of the great things about the NFL as compared to other professional sports is every game matters. In baseball, you have scheduled days off. In the NBA, players are load managing before the playoff grind.
But everyone plays in the NFL because each week is critical. So when betting the regular season, you don’t have to worry about someone unexpectedly sitting out.
The beginning of the regular season in September is when the majority of the betting takes place. People are excited, anxious to have football back, and so they bet. Later on, as you get a sense of how teams are coming together, you’ll be able to bet with more predictability.
In the postseason, the teams are all good, and there are fewer games, so you won’t find big point spreads or lines that are off. All eyes are focused on the few games each week, so the information is more widespread.
You probably won’t have an edge that someone else doesn’t also have. That doesn’t mean playoff betting isn’t great.
Closer games mean more excitement, and more games decided by one or two plays at the end. If you’re wagering on the NFL for fun, playoff wagering is for you.
Common Betting Pitfalls to Avoid
While betting on the NFL is fun and exciting and a great way to complement your NFL viewing, there are some common mistakes many novice bettors make that ruin the enjoyment of the experience and hit them negatively in the bankroll.
Betting Your Biases
Most everyone gets into sports betting because they are a sports fan, and in very few places does that passion intersect more than with NFL betting. We have our teams, and we love them. The word fan is derived from fanatic, and it’s a pretty accurate way to describe many of us when watching a game that involves our favorite team.
But that passion, that love and that craziness cannot carry over into your wagering. You must remain dispassionate when placing sports bets and only make picks based on the stats, the data, the trends and the true value of betting a specific outcome.
It’s hard, but necessary. You have to take your heart out of the equation and only bet with your head.
Betting Every Game
Wanting to place a wager on every game is another easy trap to fall into. There is a tripleheader of games on Sunday kicking off in every time zone. You’re at a sports bar with every game on a television you can see, so why not bet them all?
The simple fact is you can’t possibly know enough about every matchup to put the odds of success in your favor. You never want to guess when placing a bet. All wagers should be built on a base of solid intel that exploits a hole in the current odds and puts the bettor in a position to shift the advantage ever so slightly in their favor.
There’s no way you can do that for every game. So if you’re betting every game, you’re guessing, or betting on a feeling or just putting money down to have money down, and all of those are recipes for failure.
Always Betting Favorites
It’s human nature to want to back a winner. It’s also in our psychological makeup to root for offense more than we root for defense. The bookmakers know this, so they often shade the odds in the direction of the favorite and the over to give themselves a slight edge against the public.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t ever bet the favorite. They are the favorite for a reason: They’re good. But just know that when looking for an advantage in the posted odds, you are more likely to find it in the underdog.
Avoid all patterns, like always betting the favorite, always betting the home team, etc. If you notice you’re doing this more often than not, chances are you need to do better research.
NFL Betting FAQ
How Does a Parlay Work?
A parlay is a combination of two or more bets into one large bet. If all smaller bets within the parlay win, then the parlay wins. If even just one of the smaller bets within a parlay loses, then the entire parlay loses.
Players like to bet parlays because the more bets you combine, the bigger the payout. As a percentage, parlays are the biggest winners for the sportsbook. Sportsbooks only pay out 68% of what they take in on parlay bets, meaning that 32% of the take is profit for the book.
What is Home-Field Advantage?
You’ve heard about home-field advantage, of course, and you understand what it means in terms of crowd noise, not having to travel, and playing in a familiar environment. But what does it mean in terms of betting?
Generally speaking, if two teams are considered equal on a neutral field, then the home team will be favored by three points. Switch cities, and it would be the other team favored by three.
Although when you crunch the numbers home-field advantage is only worth about 2.5 points.
When is the NFL Draft?
The NFL Draft is held annually near the end of April. The very first draft was in February 1936 and then for several years after it was held in December and before the end of the college football season.
Since 1980, however, it has always started in late April, with the exception of 2014, when it was held the second weekend in May. It was moved to May that year because of a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall.
When Does the NFL Regular Season Begin?
The NFL kicks off its regular season the weekend following Labor Day. There are 256 regular-season games, beginning with a Thursday night game that will often involve the previous Super Bowl champion, although that tradition was altered in 2019 to celebrate the NFL’s 100th season.
When Do the NFL Playoffs Begin?
Since 2003 the NFL has held the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February, with the playoffs beginning four weeks prior to that. The first round of the playoffs in early January is the Wild Card Round. The following week is the Divisional Round. The Conference Championships are the next week and then two weeks after that is the Super Bowl.